Entering the zone may sound zen-like and magical, but in reality it is very simple. When you become immersed in achieving a goal in your sport or in your training, you are allowing yourself total trust and confidence. That will allow you to perform effortlessly where distractions are forbidden from entering your conscious mind.
So I teach athletes to work on staying relaxed and visualize, and capture this state of immersion, to enhance your performance and maximize your athletic potential. Start by following and practicing these strategies to manage your game or training so you can enter the zone!
- High self-confidence: It is rare for athletes to play well without self-confidence. Self-confidence is a belief that an athlete possesses about how well he can play or how good his skills are. “I was unstoppable,” an athlete will say about his performance after being in the zone.
- Focus in the present: The ability to focus completely on the task is critical to peak performance in any sport. Most athletes can concentrate well but often do not focus on the right cues. Total focus means becoming immersed in the present moment and the process.
- Narrow focus of attention: To play in the zone, athletes must be able to narrow focus when needed. Athletes perform best when they can narrow their focus on one external thought at a time. Don’t overthink or think too far ahead.
- Automatic and trust: The feeling of an automatic and effortless performance or execution is another mental attribute associated with the zone. Through practice, athletes develop a strong memory pattern of their performance, which then makes it feel effortless. This allows athletes to perform without thinking about how to perform — it just happens.
- Feeling of control: When playing in the zone, athletes feel very much in control of themselves and their performance. Sport performance requires a balanced emotional level. The key is to be excited to play but not to cross the line into anxiety and fear.
- Loss of fear: Athletes are not fearful or scared of negative results when playing in the zone. This may be a function of an appropriate focus and high confidence; however, having no fear is essential to getting into the zone.